The same week that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos became the first person worth more than $200 billion and over 100 critics wielded a guillotine outside of his mansion while demanding a higher company minimum wage, the world will celebrate Independent Bookstore Day on August 29. That's a nationwide party with more than 600 bookstores showing spine against the corporate giants.
Some Denver shops are offering discounts. Others are so busy trying to survive the economic impacts of COVID-19, they're not bothering to mark the occasion...so we'll mark it for them.
Here are ten of the Denver area's best indie booksellers that have been under the Amazon guillotine for years...and somehow survived:
4280 Tennyson Street
If you're looking to sip on a glass of wine, nosh on a pastry or listen to readings from authors from Denver and beyond, BookBar is the place for you. During COVID times, the shop's interior is shut down, so stop by and browse the window displays and order a little something to go. If you're not ready to leave the house, shop the store online, where you'll find a wide selection of books and some deals that beat Amazon. The shop has been home to Drag Queen Storytime and reading groups including the Well-Read Black Girl Meet-Up; it's also served as an incubator for the local literary scene. Pop a cork and raise a glass to this little shop that's made an outsized contribution to the Denver book-and-booze scene.
4315 East Mississippi Avenue
For 45 years, the Bookies, a cozy strip-mall shop off Colorado Boulevard, has offered children, teachers and families a wide variety of literature, games and educational toys. The staff is friendly, and whether your little one is looking for a board game or an age-appropriate book about histories of slavery or the Holocaust, the Bookies has something waiting for you. The store is now taking online reservations for in-store shopping starting September 1, so get in line.
Boulder Book Store
1107 Pearl Street, Boulder
The Boulder Book Store is a 20,000 square-foot treasure trove of fiction and nonfiction alike. With three stories filled with tens of thousands of books, the store also puts on more than 200 events, including author readings and discussions (these days, they're virtual) and runs a quality cafe. Whether you're looking to spend an afternoon browsing or need a quick shot of caffeine on the way back from the mountains, the Boulder Book Store has you covered. The shop, founded in 1973, is currently open at a limited capacity and also offering curbside service for those who'd prefer to stay outside.
Capitol Hill Books
300 East Colfax Avenue
After being on the brink of closing for good, Capitol Hill Books is back in action. This small shop offers the classic used-bookstore experience, selling a mix of popular and rare titles from its Colfax Avenue brick-and-mortar spot by the Statehouse; it's also doing plenty of online business these days. For risk-takers unsure of what they want to read next, Capitol Hill Books also sends out mystery bundles so that they can find their next literary surprise.
Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe
1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, Boulder
Poems have a home of their own at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe, one of the few bookstores in the country devoted exclusively to poetry. With plenty of sustainably sourced coffee always brewing, the shop serves as a gathering place for discussions about literature, politics and more, even though many of these activities have moved online. The shop is struggling these days, so if you love poetry, buy something now.
Kilgore Books & Comics
624 East 13th Avenue
Zinesters, DIY comic-book artists and book lovers flock to Kilgore Books & Comics. This little yet loaded Capitol Hill shop, which opened in 2008, is allowing customers in at a limited capacity. Chock-full of a wide selection of old and new books, Kilgore is one of the best places in town to find rare fare from local authors and independent comic-book artists.
Mutiny Information Cafe
2 South Broadway
Over the past few decades, the Denver area has had some incredible DIY, lefty literary operations, from Breakdown Books to Left Hand Books; most of them are gone. For the past few years, though, Mutiny Information Cafe has taken up the slack, serving the city as a hotbed of underground literature, music, comedy and podcasting, with shelves full of the latest local fare, zines, comics, records, and used and new books. It's a small but mighty business in a historic building that has housed various booksellers for the past 35 years, but this iteration could well be the best.
Park Hill Community Bookstore
4620 East 23rd Avenue
If the smell of used books is your aromatherapy, a trip to the Park Hill Community Bookstore — whose claim to fame is being the oldest nonprofit bookstore in the city — needs to top your list. While anybody can browse and buy, the store is a cooperative, and you can join as a member, with significant discounts and used-book credits. Volunteers run the shop, and if you can't get enough literature, you can always try to become one yourself.
Second Star to the Right
1545 South Pearl Street
Whether you're looking for a board book for a baby to chew or a sci-fi thriller for a teen to devour, Second Star to the Right is your place. Run by a former elementary-school teacher, the shop boasts educational toys, games and costumes for imaginative play that inspire a love of reading. With a strong commitment to equity and inclusivity, the store pays special attention to promoting BIPOC authors. While Second Star to the Right is open for browsing, all events, book readings and storytimes have gone online for now.
This go-to independent book chain in Denver has had various incarnations downtown, in Cherry Creek, at the Denver International Airport and on East Colfax Avenue. Over the years, it's hosted some of the biggest names in literature, offering an impressive selection of books, coffee and treats. And while it has attracted a loyal following during that time, it took massive hits over the summer after releasing a statement during the uptick in Black Lives Matter protests about its long tradition of not making political statements. Amid much criticism, Tattered Cover backpedaled and apologized in another statement, promising to take on social issues in the future and address racism within its organization and beyond. Here's to another chapter in this legacy bookstore's long tale.
What are your favorite indie bookstores? Let us know at [email protected]